JUBA, South Sudan—After breaking away from Sudan last year, South Sudan is getting ready for its first independence anniversary celebrations. After a year marked by fighting with Sudan, corruption scandals and economic difficulties, many are looking forward to the big day.
Across Juba, people are working around the clock to prepare the city for South Sudan's first ever Independence Day anniversary. Over the past week, streets have been swept, fresh paint has been applied and trees are being planted to welcome the various dignitaries from around the world expected at the celebrations. South Sudan has even installed new solar-powered streetlights along many of Juba's main roads.
The big event will take place in Juba, at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, dedicated to the man who led South Sudan's rebel army during the 21-year civil war with Sudan. South Sudan's first president, Salva Kiir, is expected to speak here to tens of thousands. And leaders from across the region have been invited.
South Sudan has had a difficult first year as a nation. Repeated conflict with neighboring Sudan, corruption scandals and the shutdown of its oil production have led to a sharp decline in its currency and a rise in the price of food and fuel. But Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin says South Sudan will be able to weather the difficulties as it moves into its second year.
"We will be engaged in getting financial loans from some friendly countries on the guarantees of the enormous resources that this country has, one of them is oil, plus the enormous other resources in agriculture, in wildlife, in tourism and in all these areas. So definitely, some development loans could be able to help," he said.
Despite the worries of the international community, many in Juba are excited and eager for the upcoming celebrations. For one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, the anniversary celebrations also provide a chance to look forward to a brighter future.
Here at the UNICEF offices in Juba, school children have been invited to paint the walls with messages for their fellow schoolmates. One of them is Joyce.
"With my drawing here I have my vision of building many schools, hospitals, to help my people since my country is now an independent country," said Joyce.
It is messages and scenes like these that South Sudan hopes to project as it prepares for its big day on July 9. And some residents are ready for a celebration. But with rising inflation, corruption and conflict, many observers are not sure that South Sudan's second year as a nation will be better than its first.